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Black listens to Mt. Juliet small business owners

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Taxes, extensions, regulations and workforce education were several topics of discussion when U.S. Congresswoman Diane Black visited Mt. Juliet business owners Wednesday during National Small Business Week.

Several of Mt. Juliet's movers and shakers attended the Small Business Roundtable held at Cedarstone Bank. Black visited a number of cities Wednesday to "spend our time together to hear from small business leaders on issues they feel are important and deserve consideration."

Several different businesses in Mt. Juliet were represented at the meeting including Environmental Science Corporation (ESC), Hutzenpillar Insurance, CPS Land, Chick-fil-A and Chris Graham in the real estate business. There were also representatives from the offices of Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, as well as Mt. Juliet City Commissioner Brian Abston.

"We wanted to get out in the districts and talk with small business owners, the ones with boots on the ground," Black said before the meeting. "I like to hear about the topics that are important to them, and it helps me represent them better."

Kenneth Buckley, technical director at ESC, said it was a worthy session.

"It's comforting to hear a successful businesswoman, who is our voice in Congress, express how difficult it would be if she had to start her business under the current economic environment," he said. "It makes me feel she is listening when she says, 'What can I do to help?'"

Black noted a third of the "able body work force" is not working, which can affect small business owners. She told those present she and her husband started their business 25 years ago.

"We borrowed $75,000 and put up our house, car and camper," she said. "We started out with two employees. We probably could not do that these days."

They now have over 1,000 employees, and Black said, "We grew and are blessed."

She said the current tax code was "complicated" and should be flat. Buckley expressed frustration about the way the taxes are currently structured.

"It's like they have doubled and tripled the tax," he said.

Small business owner Tina Hutsenpiller said there's no way business owners can do their own taxes.

"You have to have a certified public accountant, they are so complicated," she said. "People are scared to death of the Internal Revenue Service. Fears are elevated. It's a shame."

Chick-fil-A owner Ray Daniel recalled a "horror" story about a friend who was audited.

"There was an intimidation factor, I hope that never happens to me," he said.

He said some regulations that change procedures on health insurance related to number of employees and part-time/full time status have him influx. He said he's currently "in limbo" about the rules and spends an extraordinarily amount of "unproductive time" doing governmental paper work by himself.

They also discussed Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's education initiative Drive 55 to encourage technology school education, as well as new tax changes that could affect ESC, according to Buckley.

"If we can't meet the new standards there will be a major impact and possible layoffs," he said.

Black and the business owners ended with a long discussion about skyrocketing college tuition fees and how student loans are spiraling.

Prior to her Mt. Juliet stop, Black visited Joseph's Storehouse in Lebanon.

Bro. Bob Evans, who founded Joseph's Storehouse in 1999, explained how they assist 500 families each month with food and other needs.

"It is the largest food bank in Wilson County," he said. "People rely on this to get through the month."

Black asked if folks who came to Joseph's Storehouse also received government assistance, to which he responded that yes, some do.

"I like to take this information back to Washington and see what the government is doing and if that is enough," she said.

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